Europe court OKs German ruling in incest case

German courts did not violate a Leipzig man's privacy rights by convicting him for incest with his younger sister — with whom he fathered four children, the European Court of Human Rights said Thursday.

The court, part of the 47-nation Council of Europe based in eastern Strasbourg, France, said German courts didn't violate the rights of Patrick Stuebing, who was sentenced to 14 months in prison in 2005. He is now free.

The case had prompted calls for Germany to follow countries like France, Turkey, Japan and Brazil in amending its laws so that consensual sexual relations between adult relatives are no longer illegal.

Germany, as with most council member states, bars consensual sexual acts between adult siblings, the ECHR said. It also said there was not enough evidence to suggest a possible trend of decriminalization of such acts.

Stuebing had claimed his rights to private and family life were violated. The ECHR said the German courts did not convict his sister because she has a personality disorder and was "only partially liable" for her actions.

Stuebing, who was born in 1976, was placed in a children's home at age three and was adopted by a foster family four years later — and never came into contact with his family of origin until his biological mother died in 2000.

It was that year that Stuebing learned that he had a sister; they met, and developed an "intensified" relationship that December, the ECHR said. A month later, they started having consensual sexual intercourse, and ended up living together for several years. From 2001 to 2005, they had four children together.

The main basis for punishment for the incest, the ECHR said, was "the protection of marriage and the family" because it blurs family roles. It also noted "the risk of significant damage" to children born of such a relationship.